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Microsoft Paper: Domain Bias In Web Search

     
2:59 pm on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Microsoft has released a paper titled "Domain Bias in Web Search." It's in a PDF format and you'll find it on the Stanford.edu site.

Here's the Abstract.
This paper uncovers a new phenomenon in web search that we call domain bias ó a userís propensity to believe that a page is more relevant just because it comes from a particular domain. We provide evidence of the existence of domain bias in click activity as well as in human judgments via a comprehensive collection of experiments. We begin by studying the diference between domains that a search engine surfaces and that users click. Surprisingly, we find that despite changes in the overall distribution of surfaced domains, there has not been a comparable shift in the distribution of clicked domains. Users seem to have learned the landscape of the internet and their click behavior has thus become more predictable over time. Next, we run a blind domain test, akin to a Pepsi/Coke taste test, to determine whether domains can shift a userís opinion of which page is more relevant. We find that domains can actually flip a userís preference about 25% of the time. Finally, we demonstrate the existence of systematic domain preferences, even after factoring out confounding issues such as position bias and relevance, two factors that have been used extensively in past work to explain user behavior. The existence of domain bias has numerous consequences including, for example, the importance of discounting click activity from reputable domains.


Here's the link [ilpubs.stanford.edu:8090...]
3:41 pm on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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In other news grass is green and the sky is blue?

I don't get it. Of course domains, just like any brand, develop reputations and accordingly influence repeat visits.

No different to investigating reader's expectations of what they might find when picking up a copy of the Daily Mail vs the Independent.

Once a domain has earned a reputation for providing a certain category or quality of article, may we not expect searchers to gravitate back to it - or not - in the future?
5:12 pm on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Well, it was not that long that only tech weenies actually knew what domains were.

And to this day, I know someone who likes Yahoo. How does she get there? She goes to Google (her default home page in her browser) and types "Yahoo" and then clicks on the link.

So yes, the grass is green. The interesting question is whether or not it's greener than five years ago. That we do not seem to know :-)
10:28 pm on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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And to this day, I know someone who likes Yahoo. How does she get there? She goes to Google (her default home page in her browser) and types "Yahoo" and then clicks on the link.


3 out of every 4 people i know (family, friends, clients) have their homepage set up exactly the same, plus the spybar installed and running. And when i ask "do you know how did it get there?"... i get "i wouldn't have a clue" in 99.9% of cases.
4:05 am on Dec 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Hrmmm, I don't know about that.

I would think that the musings of harryballsonya.info and stanford.edu are equally trustworthy sources - but to each his own.
4:14 am on Dec 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This is news?
6:38 am on Dec 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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No, this is the reason I dropped out of school.
1:30 pm on Dec 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Stanford Students Suffer Attack of the Bleedin' Obvious
7:27 pm on Dec 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Does this imply we should put our domain as first item in all page titles?

"ABC.com Grass painting for gardeners - all colors"

Theory being a variant of the old advertising practice--put yourself in front of the viewer enough times and you'll eventually 'acquire' credibility / brand / familiarity.
8:24 am on Dec 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Time to move my ecommerce and news sections to to ebay.mysite.com and yahoo.mysite.com respectively.
4:54 pm on Dec 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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And these bozos were paid for this work?

Regards...jmcc
5:08 pm on Dec 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Maybe it's less about bias towards known domains and more about less trust in the random results returned by search engines. Trust a search engine study to shift the limelight onto webmasters, eh? ;)
8:15 am on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Time to move my ecommerce and news sections to to ebay.mysite.com and yahoo.mysite.com respectively.


Actually, I have seen something similar to this popping up in the SERPs lately. Not ebay and yahoo, but I searched for a particular forum (now defunct) and many of the top results had used subdomains to, in effect, trick the user into thinking it was the same domain.